The 2. Bundesliga (Zweite Bundesliga, is the second division of
professional football in Germany. The 2. Bundesliga is ranked below the Bundesliga and above the 3. Liga in
the German football league system. All of the 2. Bundesliga clubs qualify for the DFB-Pokal, the annual German
Cup competition. A total of 125 clubs have competed in the 2. Bundesliga since its foundation.
The decision to establish the league as the second level of football in West Germany was made in May 1973. The
league started operating in August 1974, then with two divisions of 20 clubs. It was reduced to a single division
in 1981. From the 1991-92 season onwards clubs from former East Germany started participating in the league, briefly
expanding it to two divisions again. It returned to a single division format again at the end of that season and has
had 18 clubs as its strength since 1994. Two clubs from the 2. Bundesliga are directly promoted to the Bundesliga,
while a third promoted club has been determined through play-offs from 1974 to 1991 and again since 2008. Between
1991 and 2008 the third-placed club in the league was directly promoted. The bottom clubs in the league are relegated
to the third division which has been, from 1974 to 1994 the Oberliga, from 1994 to 2008 the Regionalliga and since
2008 the 3. Liga. The number of relegated clubs has fluctuated over the years. Since 2008 two clubs are directly
relegated while the third-last team has the opportunity to defend its league place in play-offs against the third
placed team of the 3. Liga.